In October 2010, Ahmed Rashid, author of much-read books on the Taliban and the Afghan war, wrote: “In the past year, violent incidents have risen by 50 per cent, the Taliban have spread to the north and west of the country and the battle for control of the Taliban-dominated Pashtun south and east gets bloodier by the day”.
The results of Obama’s 2009 “surge” of extra US troops into Afghanistan has not been significantly better since then. In May 2011 Rashid assessed “the security situation” as “actually worsening”.
The US can always defeat the Taliban in head-on battle. But then the Taliban moves away, over the border or to other areas in Afghanistan; the rural people of Afghanistan become more resentful of US militarism and the corrupt US-backed Kabul government; and soon the Taliban are back.
On 23 June Barack Obama concluded, logically enough, that if more US troops and more billions of dollars do no good, then he should pull back some troops (10,000 now, another 23,000 by September 2012) and spend less money.
The Taliban retorted that “our armed struggle will increase from day to day”, and many conservatives complained that Obama’s drawdown is too big, too soon.
The USA is caught on a ratchet. Since 2001 its troop numbers in Afghanistan have inched up steadily, always seeking by some extra force to pacify the country, always only making things worse. And then troop reductions become “risky”.
“Risky” or not, the US and British troops in Afghanistan are making things worse, not better. They should come out.